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Monday, April 23, 2012
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Why Some Comic Adaptations Failed: ‘Iron Man 2,’ ‘Punisher: War Zone,’ ‘Superman Returns,’ ‘Hulk’

By Scott Mendelson

Actor Tom Hiddleston wrote an eloquent essay yesterday for The Guardian basically praising and defending the sub-genre known as the superhero picture. Plenty of disdain for the genre comes from the very notion that it’s big-budget entertainment based on literature that was technically intended for children that gobbles up production dollars and screen space that otherwise might be allotted for more explicitly grown-up fare. But at least some of the alleged weariness of this specific type of film (the superhero comic book adaptation) comes from a feeling that all-too many of them are basically telling the same story. You’ve generally got the standard origin story which (let’s be honest) basically takes Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie and pours it into a different color bottle (I say that as a big fan of Spider-Man and Captain America). Then you have the sequels, which are quite often merely a case of escalation and/or the hero dealing with self-doubt often while in combat with a ‘bigger/badder’ version of himself (again, thank you Superman II). But over the last twenty years or so, there have been a handful of high-profile comic book films that have attempted to play around with the formula but have artistically failed anyway. As a rebuttal to the idea that ‘all superhero movies are the same’ as well as a reaffirmation of the idea that ‘it’s not what it’s about, but how it’s about it’, let’s take a look at five comic book adaptations that didn’t play it safe, but didn’t come out on top either.

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